Coronavirus: WHO director-general says there are ‘green shoots of hope’ in global fight against Covid-19

Health chief praises Boris Johnson for implementing local lockdowns over outbreaks in UK

Conrad Duncan
Monday 10 August 2020 12:45 BST
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WHO director-general says there are 'green shoots of hope' in global fight against Covid-19

The world is witnessing “green shoots of hope” in its battle against Covid-19, the head of the World Health Organisation (WHO) has said.

In the WHO’s daily media briefing, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus began by noting the scale of the coronavirus pandemic, with 20 million confirmed cases and 750,000 deaths expected by the end of this week.

However, he added that there were reasons to be hopeful in the global fight against the disease.

“I know many of you are grieving and that this is a difficult moment for the world,” Dr Tedros said.

“But I want to be clear, there are green shoots of hope and no matter where a country, a region, a city or a town is – it’s never too late to turn the Covid-19 outbreak around.”

The health chief praised New Zealand as a “global exemplar” for its response to the pandemic, after the country celebrated 100 days with no community transmission of Covid-19 on Sunday.

Dr Tedros also praised Boris Johnson for his government’s decision to implement local lockdowns in the UK and France’s Emmanuel Macron for the introduction of compulsory face-masks in some outdoor areas in Paris.

“Over the last few days, UK prime minister Boris Johnson put areas of northern England under stay at home notifications as clusters of cases were identified,” he said.

“In France, President Emmanuel Macron introduced compulsory masking in busy outdoor spaces of Paris in response to an increase in cases.”

He added: “Strong and precise measures like these, in combination with utilising every tool at our disposal, are key to preventing any resurgence in Covid-19 and allowing societies to be reopened safely.”

The WHO has called for countries to use a combination of rapid case identification, contact tracing, physical distancing, mask wearing and regular washing of hands to slow the spread of the pandemic.

Dr Tedros also warned that effective suppression of Covid-19 in the community would be necessary for reopening schools.

“We all want to see schools safely reopened but we also need to ensure that students, staff and faculty are safe. The foundation for this is adequate control of transmission in the community,” he said.

“My message is crystal clear: suppress, suppress, suppress the virus.

“If we suppress the virus effectively, we can safely open up societies.”

Dr Mike Ryan, the head of the WHO Health Emergencies Programme, said he believed the world would get vaccines which are “safe and effective” for tackling the virus but cautioned this would be just one step towards ending the pandemic.

“The challenge is going to be scaling up production and allocating those vaccines in a way that does the most good around the world and stops this virus to the greatest extent possible, paying for all that and preparing national systems to deliver this,” Dr Ryan said.

“As I’ve said before here in press conferences, we have effective polio and measles vaccines and we still struggle to eliminate those virus.”

He added: “Having an effective vaccine is only part of the answer. You have to have enough of the vaccine, enough people have to have access to that vaccine and you have to be able to deliver it to a population that want and demand that vaccine.”

It has been more than six months since the WHO declared a global health emergency over Covid-19 in January.

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